Apple Cider Custard Tart

I was able to give my dad his Father’s Day baked goods while I was in CT last week, since today I’m back up home in MA, and my dad is out and about visiting my grandma and other friends in the Mid-Atlantic.

My Dad and me at my graduation last year. Please disregard my wind-blown hair.

But it’s ok, really.  My dad is a very simple man.  Before my baking obsession struck, the usual question of “what do you want for Father’s Day/your birthday/Christmas?” was met with virtually the same list of items year in and year out.

Socks, tennis balls, and/or a new grill cover.  Simple, no?  I swear I’ve gotten him like three grill covers and they all seem to fall apart or disappear.

Now that I can’t get myself to stop baking, I try to make him special items when these times roll around.  They usually involve chocolate.  Lots of chocolate.  Nothing less for the man who I find myself resembling as I get older.  The man I’d call when my car wouldn’t start, when I got my heart broken or when I needed a another pair of eyes to edit an essay.  Thanks Dad, for all you’ve done, and all you do.

And to all the dads out there, I dedicate this tart.  I know apples aren’t “in season” (hey, apples are always in season somewhere in the country), but I’ve wanted to make this tart for a while, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with buying cider during springtime.

The dough of this tart is sweeter than traditional pie dough, and I almost ended up snacking on bits of it while making the lattice.  The cider is reduced and turned into a lovely layer of spiced custard, which pairs wonderfully with the sweet dough, creating a treat worthy of all Dads on their special day.  Happy Father’s Day!

Apple Cider Custard Tart

Adapted from Cherry Tea Cakes

Makes one 9” tart

For the dough:

¾ cup powdered sugar

1¾ cup all-purpose flour

pinch of salt

2 tsp grated lemon zest

½ cup (one stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten in a small bowl

For the apple cider custard filling:

2 cups apple cider

3 large eggs

¾ cup light brown sugar, packed

4 Tbsp (half a stick) unsalted butter

First make the dough.  In a large bowl, mix together sugar, flour, salt, and lemon zest Massage the butter into the mixture with your fingertips until it has the consistency of coarse meal.

Switch to a wooden spoon or spatula and stir in the egg.  Once it is semi-incorporated, switch back to your hands, and gather the dough together.  Add water 1 Tbsp at a time if the dough seems dry.  Shape the dough into a flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Place the dough in the refrigerator and chill for at least two hours or overnight.

While the dough is chilling make the apple cider custard.  In a medium saucepan, boil the apple cider until it has reduced to a half cup of liquid.

In a medium bowl, beat together eggs and brown sugar. While mixing constantly, very slowly pour in the reduced apple cider.  Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture becomes thick, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately pour back into the medium bowl through a fine mesh strainer to remove lumps.

Cut the butter into small pieces and whisk into the mixture until the butter has melted. Cover immediately and refrigerate.

To assemble and bake, preheat oven to 350ºF.  Grease a 9” tart pan with removable bottom and set aside.  Let the dough sit for 5 minutes, then roll it out on a floured surface, reserving one fourth to make the lattice topping.  Fit the rolled out dough into the prepared tart pan.

Spread the apple cider custard into the tart shell.  Roll out the reserved dough and cut into long strips creating a design, or cut using cookie cutters into shapes.  Bake for 35 minutes or until crust is golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes, and serve warm or at room temperature. Leftovers should be stored in the refrigerator.


Apple Cider Chicken with Caramelized Shallots

Practically every time I’m in Connecticut visiting my family, I always make a stop at Lyman Orchards in Middlefield.  I know that Massachusetts is certainly not without many, many orchards, but the ones near us are so expensive.

I’m not sure why the pick-your-own produce is cheaper at Lyman’s, but it’s not the only reason I love it there.  They also have a great orchard store where they offer all kinds of goodies: jams, baked goods, cheeses, and of course, apple cider.

I always get at least a pint to bake with, but I had never cooked with it before.  Until I saw this recipe on Crepes of Wrath.  I knew I had to make it, so once I got back from my last trip, I set to work.  Any recipe involving roasting chicken in apple cider has got to be awesome.

And it was.  It involves caramelizing shallots, which is pure genius I might add.  I had never thought of caramelizing shallots, though I do it with onion all the time.

You brown the chicken, then braise it in a sauce composed of cider, chicken broth and apple cider vinegar.  The chicken absorbs the most wonderful apple-y undertones in the oven, then you reduce the sauce and serve it over the chicken, topped with the shallots.

If you’ve got some extra cider and don’t want to bake, definitely give this recipe a try.

Apple Cider Chicken with Caramelized Shallots

Adapted from Crepes of Wrath

Makes 2 servings

2 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided
2 large chicken breasts
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 cups unfiltered apple cider
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 cups chicken stock

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter over high heat in a large ovenproof skillet and season your chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Brown the chicken well on both sides, about 2-3 minutes, then remove from the pan, place on a plate, and set aside.

Melt the other tablespoon of butter in your pan over medium heat. Add in your sliced shallots, and cook, stirring frequently, until they are browned and nicely caramelized, about 15 minutes. Add in the fresh thyme and red pepper flakes, stir for 30 seconds, then add in the apple cider. Cook for 20-25 minutes over medium heat, until the cider has reduced to about half, stirring every so often so that the shallots don’t burn to the bottom. Add in the stock and vinegar, bring to a boil, and add the chicken back to the pan. Place the pan in the oven and cook for 30 minutes, until cooked through.

When the chicken is cooked, remove it from the pan, place on another plate, cover, and set aside. Place the sauce over high heat and cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes, until it has reduced. Add the chicken back to the pan to heat it through quickly, then serve with plenty of juices and caramelized shallots on top.  Serve with rice or bread to sop up the excellent juices.

Apple Cider Bundt Cake

Enter the year of the dragon.  Last year was the year of the rabbit.  I’m glad we managed to get Izzy during that time frame.  Luke is a dragon, so now you all know.  And I’m a snake…which is the next year to come, just in case you were wondering.

During the celebration of western New Year, I made this cake with my mom.  Before going down to CT I had some egg yolks to use up for whatever reason, so I decided to make pastry cream.  Caramel pastry cream to be exact.

I brought it along for the journey with the explicit purpose of pairing it with an apple cake.  I originally had hopes for a caramel apple layer cake, but my mom didn’t have round cake pans.  I was crestfallen, but determined to use that pastry cream nonetheless.

Since she did have a bundt pan, we decided on an apple cider bundt cake.  We had after all, just visited the local orchard/market and had picked up a fresh half gallon.

This cake is down right tasty, with or without the pastry cream.  It also ended up being breakfast the next morning, I love how bundt cakes are versatile like that.

Apple Cider Bundt Cake

Adapted from Pixelated Crumb

2 ½ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup butter, softened
1 ½ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup apple cider, heated

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Generously butter and flour a 10 inch bundt pan, or spray with cooking spray.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, and salt.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until smooth.  Add in eggs one at a time, beating after each, then add the vanilla extract.  Beat until incorporated.

Add in ¼ of the flour mixture and stir to combine.  Next, add in 1/3 of the buttermilk.  Continue to alternate adding the flour and buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, and beat until smooth.

Slowly add in heated apple cider.  Mix until just combined.  Wipe down sides of the bowl, then transfer batter to the prepared bundt pan.  Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 45-50 or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Let cool in pan on a cooling rack for 15 minutes.  Invert cake and let cool the rest of the way on a cooling rack.

Caramel Pastry Cream

Adapted from David Lebovitz’s Ready for Dessert

½ cup granulated sugar

1 cup whole milk

3 tablespoons all purpose flour

3 large egg yolks

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon salt

Spread the ½ cup sugar in an even layer in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan and cook over medium heat without stirring until the sugar begins to melt around the edges.  Using a heatproof spatula, slowly drag the liquefied sugar to the center and stir gently until all the sugar is melted.  Continue to cook, stirring infrequently, until the caramel turns dark amber in color and begins to foam a bit.  Remove from heat and gradually stir in the milk.

The caramel will bubble up vigorously, then the bubbling will subside.  If the caramel seizes into a hardened mass, (like mine did) whisk the mixture over low heat until most of the caramel is dissolved.  Don’t worry about any small chunks; they’ll dissolve later.

Sift the flour into the caramel mixture, then whisk to break up any clumps.  Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until thickened.  In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks, then gradually whisk in a small amount of the hot thickened caramel mixture.  Scrape the yolk mixture into the saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pan, and cook until thickened to the consistency of mayonnaise.  Press the pastry cream through a mesh strainer set over a large bowl, then whisk in vanilla and salt.  Let cool completely.  Cover remaining pastry cream and store in the fridge.

Apple Cider Caramels +Topsfield Fair and a new friend

Another fantastic fall activity I neglected to mention are fairs.  I’m not sure why they only happen in the fall, but for me, it’s just another plus for the season.  Growing up in the Connecticut River Valley, I often attended the Durham Fair.  Now that I’ve moved out of Connecticut, I wasn’t sure where I was going to get my fair fix.  (Although I did manage to go to the Durham Fair this year, but I hadn’t gone in at least four so double-fairing it this year is totally ok).   Anyway, while trying to figure out what to do this weekend, my friend Kelly mentioned she was going to the Topsfield Fair.  I was so in.  Luke and I went and had a great time.

We had such a good time, we even brought a little piece of the fair home with us….and here she is!

Isn’t she adorable?  I am such a sucker for animals, and when I saw that a large number of the rabbits were for sale, I couldn’t resist.  Luke was smitten too.  Her name is Isadora and she’s a 13-week-old black otter Netherland Dwarf rabbit.  I’m watching her explore our living room while writing this post.  I can’t get enough of her.  I have sat in front of her cage watching her with my camera quite a few times already…and we haven’t even had her for 24 hours.  Luke said that having our own pet makes him feel like more of an adult.  Again, fall gives me my childhood, and somehow slowly takes it away.  It’s ok though, because I get to take photos that are cuteness incarnate.

Anyway, I have an awesome recipe to share.  I love caramel…a lot, and I’ve been dying to make it ever since I got a candy thermometer.  This is the first recipe I’ve tried, and it turned out fabulous.  Plus, it has the flavors of fall, which makes it even better.  The only annoying part was cleaning the pot afterwards and cutting up the caramel into bite-size pieces. I guess I let it cool too long.

Either way, I have a huge tupperware full of individually wrapped caramel, a new bunny, and I couldn’t be happier!

Apple Cider Caramels
adapted from Poet in the Pantry via Blondies Cakes

2 cups apple cider
1 cup heavy or whipping cream, divided
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup real maple syrup
1/2 cup salted butter, cubed

If you don’t already have apple cider reduction on hand, you have to make it first. Pour 2 cups of apple cider into a medium saucepan and boil on high for about 20 minutes, or until the cider is reduced to 1/3 c. Keep a measuring cup nearby in case you need to measure a few times to make sure you have the correct amount. Set aside.

Prepare your 8″ square pan by lining it with parchment paper, leaving about 1″ hanging over the edges for easy removal. You can spray the parchment paper with cooking spray or butter it, but I felt this was redundant and skipped that part.

In a small bowl, combine 2/3 c. cream, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and reduced apple cider. Set aside.

In a large, heavy bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar, 1/3 c. whipping cream + enough water to reach the 1/2 c. line on the measuring cup, and maple syrup. Cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves, then insert the candy thermometer and simmer until the syrup reaches 234 degrees.

Remove from heat and slowly whisk in the cream mixture. Add the cubed butter and stir until the cream and butter are fully incorporated. Return the pan to heat and re-insert the candy thermometer. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until the temperature reaches 248 degrees.

Remove from heat and pour the caramel into the prepared pan. Let the mixture cool completely at room temperature or in the refrigerator. Cut into logs or individual pieces to the size desired and wrap in wax paper. Store in a covered container, in a cool place or in the refrigerator, for up to 2 weeks.